Google+ Georgia On My Mind: The Problem With Georgia Schools

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Problem With Georgia Schools

Recently Maureen Downey presented Wake-Up Call for Public Education, an editorial in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. In the piece she bemoans the fact that many education honchos resist change at any cost.

She doesn’t understand why Governor Perdue calls for a 3% pay raise across the board for teachers and not utilize merit pay tied in with test scores. Many boardmembers actually complain about the raises because they have to then dig into their system's pockets to come up with the same raises for other school support personnel. I don’t mind merit pay if it happens, however, it won’t turn around test scores at the rate many think it will because teacher performance isn’t the main problem.

Downey doesn’t understand why certain special education students aren’t given vouchers for their children to attend schools better suited for their needs. She contends that many board members and policy makers don’t want this to happen because it would jeopordize the programs that are in place. Quite frankly I would love for this to happen. It is very rare for a special needs child to actually receive the type of services they need. Those in special education are very well trained and they do an admirable job, however, many special education students are placed in regular education classes for part of the day and regular educators do not have the types of training (i.e. and additional college degree) to handle issues that come up. I find that many of my special education students have needs that require one-on-one assistance for the full class period...this is basically impossible when I have 25-30 students, and I’m the lone adult in the room.

Finally, Downey advises many administrators and policy makers argue seventy percent of Georgians currently have no ties to our schools because they don’t have any children that attend them. Downey advises the disinterest doesn’t occur because a large majority of Georgians don’t have children in the schools. Instead, it’s the fact that these people have lost interest in a mediocre product. I agree that the product is mediocre and I know many teachers who feel the same way. We are at our wits end to have the support we need, but rarely do we get it. Often when we have an administrator who tries to help they often find they don’t get the support they need at the next level.

I understand the disinterest and the unwillingness to support Georgia’s public schools. However, many of the things that are put out in view for the public rarely paint a true image of the real problem with education in our state and across the nation.

Today in the Atlanta Journal Constitution the Get Schooled blog posted Should Public Education Advocates Abandon Ship I won’t repeat the post and all of the 37 comments here, but I implore you to take a look.

You see many people who have an opinion about education in Georgia haven’t actually stepped foot inside a school building since they graduated high school. They think school is still like it was way back when. Sadly the place I remember as school and the place where I work today are at vast ends of the spectrum. Even the best of students are often borderline when it comes to the respect issue. For every parent I have who wants their child to be held at a high standard I have five others who want me to dumb things down for their children. For every parent who thanks me when I call I have five more telling me to f-off and that the school day is my problem not theirs. Actually, I’m lucky when I get these types of parents to the phone. I leave a lot of messages in efforts to contact parents. Most of the conferences I hold are for students who don’t really need a conference. It’s the ones where I desperately need the parent’s help that are “no shows.”

Hopefully you will take a look at the comments over at the AJC. For every Georgia teacher that commented over there there are many, many more with similar stories. Dangerous students are not just in the high schools. They are also in the middle and elementary schools as well. They start young these days as early as pre-k. Screaming fits, biting, smearing feces all over a public restroom, and beligerance toward any adult in charge can occur at this young age. I’ve personally restrained a violent four year old and learned quickly if you don’t do it right you will get hurt. Personally, during late bus duty I’ve had a student in K stick his head up under my skirt and say, “Hey, what ‘cha got up there?” His head was actually between my legs and I could feel the hair on his head against my leg. It was everything I could do to get him away. He had my legs in a death grip. My assistant administrator at the time said, “Oh, that’s just ****. He does things like that all the time.” Nothing was done.

I’ve had students throw books, rocks, chairs, and pencils at me or other students. I’ve had a student get right up into my face and threaten me by stating, “I’m going to womp you right up side your head.” That particular young man had terrorized my classroom all year as well as most of my students. I told him to go right ahead and I would call the police because I knew it would be the only way he’d ever be removed from my class. Luckily for me he backed down because he would have done some damage. More than likely if I had called the police before calling the school office if wouldn’t have done any good. The young man would have been moved to some other classroom where he could start terrorizing another batch of kids.

I’ve had students throw tantrums in the middle of my floor because I won’t let them lay in the floor, come and go from the classroom as they please, or because I (gasp) ask them to read something or write something. I have students who interrupt me constantly with off task, inappropriate comments to gain attention for themselves. The same students never bring anything to class and never finish an assignment. Yes, I encourage them to no avail. I’ve had female students writing notes back and forth about oral sex. The notes were so explicit you could tell they had done it or had seen it being done. Please remember I teach nine and ten year olds.

I’ve seen a student have major issues all the way through elementary school and once in middle school the young man began touching female students improperly. It finally took the threat of a law suit before the student was finally removed from school. One of the young girls involved was traumatized, and her parents now have the added expense of private education in order to provide a safe place for their daughter. Many of our problem students have had at least 30-50 write ups for disrespect, fighting, bullying, etc. by the time they have gotten to middle school. Many are well into their first year of middle school before they are finally removed so that others can learn.

Over at the AJC one commenter in an attempt to help was concerned that Georgia educators are not receiving the type of training they need to handle disruptive students. My first thought when I read the comment was, “Gee, why should I have to have special training? Why can’t we just handle the problem and get it out of the maintstream classroom so others can learn?” The person who wanted more teacher training was thinking that perhaps then teachers would be able to tell a student’s hot buttons and avoid them. Many times educators are not made aware of the past problems a student may have. Usually we are the last to know if the student has a violent record, has a juvenile record, or has any kind of psych problem that might be useful knowledge. I’ve actuallly been told because of confidentiality I can’t know certain things. Many times I learn about juvy records because the student tells me.

If you are a parent and have a student in a public school understand this…..the major disruptive students in your child’s school have more rights that your child. These students take up far too much of the teacher’s and administrator’s time----time that could be better spent working with your child. They disrupt lessons, class changes, and lunch time. They terrorize recess, rest rooms, and the bus ride home. They continue with their behavior because they know nothing will be done.

Many policy makers, researchers, and administration types actually blame the teachers for these major discipline problems. They state the teachers make unjust demands on students, the teaching methods don’t sufficiently engage the student, and we aren’t empathetic to the student’s problems. Students who don’t pass “the test” fail because the teacher fails. They state the student has no fault in the matter at all.

I agree with Maureen Downey and many of the points she makes, however, many educators across our state including myself understand the major problem behind Georgia's mediocre education product. Educrats continually run from the issue of out-of-control students and major discipline issues by sticking their heads in the sand anytime the issue is brought up.

Students who continually disrupt have real problems and I do have feelings for them. My environment simply isn’t the best one for them. Many of them come from very chaotic environments. To place them in orderly surroundings such as a school classroom where there are expected behaviors and boundaries is too much for them. It’s no wonder they act out and attempt to restore a more familiar environment for them which is chaos. They are doing this though at the expense of others…..and therein lies the rub.

Until we have order in Georgia’s classrooms things will remain the same.

What say you?


Button Gwinnett said...

Thank you and to all other Georgia teachers for what they do. My teachers were always some of my biggest heroes.

I had this wonderful history teacher that travelled around the world during the summer and showed us his slides when he got back. I remember him telling us once that in Russia (USSR at the time) doctors and lawyers are reverred there too. But teachers are just as highly thought of, if not more. It's a shame that it isn't quite the same way in this country.

Miga said...

My aunt (who is like a mother to me) is a high school special ed teacher in Georgia - she's one of the extra-educated ones ;). I've heard the horror stories of what teachers have to endure and I'm always amazed at the lack of response from parents or administration. It seems to me that creative teaching is nearly impossible today with having to deal with pressures of raising standardized test scores and maintain control over disrespectful and unruly students. It's really sad, because some of my favorite teachers were the creative ones that could make a subject come alive.

I have a daughter in the 5th grade this year and we're all in her business. Her poor teachers always look confused when both her father and I go up to the school to offer any assistance or to just check in and see how things are going. J comes home with horror stories of her own and it frightens me beyond words.

P.S. Thanks for stopping by my blog the other day, it's exciting to know someone actually reads my drivel. :)

EHT said...

Thanks for the support Button and Mama Miga.

As you can tell I feel very strongly about the demise of discipline in our public schools.

Splitcat Chintzibobs said...

What a depressing pictue. I suppose your description of the discipline problems in public schools explains why so many of the students in the private school where I teach are children of public school teachers. If I saw that stuff everyday, I wouldn't want my child there. It probably also explains why so many public school teachers are willing to take substantial pay cuts to teach in private schools.

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